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    The Zeigarnik Effect

    May 28, 2018 · Psychology,Funnels,Conversion,Email Marketing,Zeigarnik EffectLeading Your Prospects Down The Funnel Path.


    What Is The Zeigarnik Effect?

    The Zeigarnik Effect was named after Dr. Bluma Zeigarnik, a Soviet psychiatrist, and psychologist. She conducted a series of experiments testing memory. She compared tasks that were either incomplete or completed and found it was easier for people to remember the details of incomplete or interrupted tasks than ones that were completed.

    In 1927, while studying at the University of Berlin, one her professors, Dr. Kurt Lewin, observed that. Waiters working in a cafe, remembered incomplete (unpaid) tabs better than those who had been paid for and were complete. Dr. Zeigarnik conducted several studies to test this hypothesis and found that the active rehearsal of information helps in its retention. This is why college students cramming for tests do better when they take several breaks during their study sessions. The breaks or interruptions helped them retain more information. When we have neglected to finish a task or are interrupted before finishing the job, the thoughts of it haunt us ---we think about it over and over again until the task is finally completed. We do not have closure and continuously, remember and think about these things in our minds.

    There are many situations where marketers use the Zeigarnik effect in their marketing efforts. We will look at several of these instances, shortly. In a study conducted by James Heimbach and Jacob Jacoby, it was found that audiences were more likely to hear out the content of an advertisement if it were accompanied by a well-known jingle they recognized. The audience felt compelled to keep listening to the whole ad until the finish. It was also found, that an interruption towards the end of the commercial, contributed to their having better recall of the advertisement. The belief that the Zeigarnik effect influenced the viewers' recall of the advertisement was shown to be true.

    The Zeigarnik effect is used often, in media and advertising, because it works very well and doesn't appear to most people as a marketing ploy.

    A great example of the Zeigarnik effect being used in advertising was seen in a Pringles banner ad. It showed a young man and woman together. The man was kneeling on one knee, holding out a jewelry box with a ring in it. The woman was standing up, in front of the man had a surprised look on her face, looking as though she was ready to yell, "Yes, of course, I'll marry you", The ad had a unique (CTA) call to action and were asked to click the banner to reveal more of the conversation, line by line. Viewers felt compelled to continue clicking until the happy ending of the story was shown.

    The Zeigarnik effect can be used in email subject lines to get people to read the entire email. By not putting a period at the end of the subject line sentence, it makes the sentence look incomplete, making the reader curious and wishing to read more. It increases the readers' curiosity and makes him want to continue reading to find out the whole story.



    I have seen the technique also used in email. When a period is not placed at the end of the last sentence, of the last paragraph, at the bottom of the first page of a multi-page email. This gives the reader the idea that the email is not finished and peaks their interest in finishing reading the whole email, so they continue reading the next page of the email.

    When you put an enticing sentence in the subject line, it makes the reader want to find out more. A "cliffhanger" like this adds drama. It can be just a partial thought or an incomplete sentence, but it makes the reader wonder what the partial sentence means. And again, makes them curious and wanting to read on. An example of this might be something like this... Subj: "she called at 4am. This leaves the reader wondering who she is and what did she want calling at 4am? Or Subj: " Yes, I told him no. The subject line here peaks the reader's curiosity and makes them want to finish reading the entire story.

    Using a progress bar in the subject line, you can use this psychological principle again which will appear to most people that they have incomplete or unfinished tasks to do. With email marketing, you can place something like this that measures a person's progress. For instance, this is 1 of 5, 2 of 5 emails, and so on or Tip #1, Tip #2, etc. The reader subconsciously thinks his task is not complete and makes him look forward to receiving and reading, the rest of the emails in the sequence.

    The Zeigarnik effect can be used in Opt-In forms by using a two-step process to collect email address. Here, the reader is asked to click on a link which causes a pop up to appear, asking him or her to subscribe. The Zeigarnik effect purports that a person will complete a task they have started and left undone, and will be more likely to, opt-in and enter their email address, subscribing to the service.

    You can see that the Zeigarnik principle can be used in a lot of different ways in your email marketing, enticing your prospects in continuing, step by step, through your sales or conversion funnel.


    Thank you Dr. Zeigarnik!


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    Bio: Robert Thomson Traffic

    Robert Thomson

    Bob is an Online SEO Copywriter, internet marketer and entrepreneur. He owns Blue Koala Digital Marketing and lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He specializes in medical, allied health, alternative medicine and health and wellness copywriting, using SEO principles and best practices to boost search engine rankings. You can reach Bob with questions, comments and for speaking engagements at:

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